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NHS and the Pride Flag

Pride flags for the NHS
I want to start this off by saying that this post is in no-way aimed at the NHS. As someone who has benefitted from the NHS being free, myself and my family could not be more appreciative or supportive of them. I am in no way being critical of them or any of the services they provide. They do incredible work 365 days a year and they are under immense pressure and putting their lives at risk amidst the Coronavirus pandemic and we cannot ask anymore of them. All Gay Long whole-heartedly supports the NHS and everything they stand for. This is a controversial topic, but it is a conversation that is happening in the UK right now, especially within the LGBTQ+ community and it is something we need to speak about. 

Support for the NHS

Across the country, households are standing on their doorsteps once a week and clapping to show their support and appreciation for the NHS and other key workers. Kids are drawing rainbows and parents are showing them off proudly (and rightly so) in their windows.  Others have taken to using rainbow flags to show their support, and we’re not talking flags with images of rainbows on them – they are literally using Pride flags. This is puzzling for some and doesn’t make much sense.  The Pride flag was created for a very specific reason with 6 colours with each having a very specific and intentional meaning with a lot of history behind it too. It was created as a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community. Using the Pride flag to show support for the NHS feels disrespectful to the community. No other symbol would be borrowed or used for 2 different purposes or meanings. Doing so is like saying “oh, that thing doesn’t matter and it belongs to anyone so we’ll just use it for this now”. This would not happen with any other logo or symbol, so why is it ok to do this with the Pride flag.    

Using the Pride Flag

Let me be clear, the issue here isn’t children drawing rainbow images, the issue is (even homophobic) individuals, companies and the government itself literally thinking it is ok to use the LGBT rainbow flag for the NHS instead. Online shops have been accused of ignorance as they sell LGBT+ pride banners rebranded as “Thank You NHS” flags. This is just one example of the systematic erasure and rebranding of LGBT+ symbology that we have been experiencing for decades. Plymouth Citybus even rebranded what is usually their Pride bus and changed it’s meaning to the NHS instead. When people ask us every year “why do you even need Pride” or make comments like “we don’t get straight pride”. This is why. In short, leave the Pride flag alone and stop trying to erase our history.  Why is it that when we use the flag during Pride month we are accused of “throwing it in people’s faces”, yet somehow this is ok?  The following is taken from a recent article by Forbes:
One study into the impact of coronavirus on the LGBT+ community by Queer Voices Heard suggests just under six in 10 (57%) in the U.K. LGBT Community fears they will be worse off after the pandemic. Early signs suggest there is already evidence that might be the case.

The NHS logo

The thing that is so puzzling in all of this is that the NHS already have their own symbol. They have a logo and iconic blue and white colours. Would it not make more sense to use a blue and white flag instead or use images of the actual NHS logo?  Many even fear that next year when we are able to hold physical Pride celebrations again, right wing people are going to complain that we are using the “NHS symbol” – despite the fact that the Pride flag has been used by us for more than 40 years. thank you NHS flag The current situation means uncertainty for almost everyone, and these are unprecedented circumstances for millions of people. Many LGBTQ+ people are worried about their future and what recent statements and changes will mean for them.  The Pride flag does represent a hard-fought battle for basic human rights and its reinvention as a ‘Thank You NHS Flag’ is disrespectful and at best, contentious for some in the LGBTQ+ community.
Nikki Halliwell (She/Her)

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